Quick, when's the last time you attended a homeowner's association meeting?
You and me both.
Attending HOA meetings is about as popular as jury duty. We like the idea that someone is on the jury carrying out justice.
Just as we like the idea that someone is looking out for the neighborhood by preventing the house down the street from being painted purple and making sure the broken playground swing is repaired.
We just don't want to be the ones to do it.
Instead, when it comes to running our subdivisions, we rely on a board of volunteers who, for the most part, are well-intentioned and do a good job.
Yes, I know, there are exceptions.
Like overbearing board members who derive joy from the power they have over neighbors.
And there are cases of board members misusing dues, like the South Florida woman who was feeding her online gambling habit.
So a sweeping 124-page bill by Sen. Alan Hays to regulate HOAs may seem, at first, to be a great plan.
The bill would lump HOAs in with condo associations, mobile homes and timeshares by establishing an ombudsman at the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to investigate complaints about homeowner associations.
Right now the state office only deals with HOAs when it comes to board election disputes.
Any complaints outside of elections and homeowners are stuck taking the HOA to court for a resolution.
If you can get past the irony of a conservative such as Hays — a Republican from Umatilla who was supported by the tea party — creating a monster bureaucracy to regulate HOAs and charging homeowners a $4 tax to pay for it, then you might think it's a reasonable idea.
After all, there ought to be checks on HOA boards and avenues for homeowners to pursue complaints without the expense of hiring an attorney.
But Hays' bill takes the statute that regulates condos and applies it to homeowners associations.
That means basic rules such as how board elections are conducted would undergo major changes.
This is a problem for one big reason that I already mentioned: participation in HOAs is dismal.
I'm guilty, too. Life is busy. We don't get home from work until just before the meeting is set to start. By then, getting dinner on the table seems like a bigger priority than finding out what the social committee has on tap for Memorial Day.
Unless there's a proposal to significantly raise association dues, many HOA meetings are attended by the board members and that's about it.
It's hard enough to get people to volunteer to serve on HOA boards. Requiring candidates for board seats to file their intent to run 40 days in advance plus send out a second notice — as required for condo associations — seems like a great way to ensure that participation drops even further.
Right now, a potential candidate can simply raise her hand at a meeting and be elected the very same night. The bill would also do away with proxy voting and require a mail-in secret ballot.
Folks involved in HOAs make no bones about the fact that elections can be a joke. Current law requires a quorum on the night of voting. If a quorum isn't reached (and that happens often) then the election is canceled and the current members stay put.
The board could reschedule the election, but often that doesn't happen. And that's how some HOA presidents end up serving decades-long terms.
So while many of us have a hard time mustering the energy to attend HOA meetings, perhaps Hays' proposal will accomplish one thing: Getting us to care enough to take a stand against it.
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